Faulty Fear of Fat and Cholesterol

September 26, 2017 in Health Claims, Nutrition by Joyce Bunderson

I was extremely fortunate to attend the Fielding School of Public Health at UCLA. I say that because it took many in public health nutrition thirty years to finally get the recommendations that my professors shared with me clear back in the 1980s. The issue of dietary cholesterol and fat was taught fairly differently between some of the top schools of public health. At that time the majority of the schools were teaching that the public should eat a low fat diet and be very careful with the consumption of cholesterol in foods, because of cardiovascular health risks.

I remember even having discussions with fellow dietitians from other universities and they would say that consumers should rarely or never consume eggs, shrimp and other shellfish. I tried to explain the mechanism that I was taught, but it was of no avail. After all these years, and a growing body of convincing research, it turns out that I was fortunate to have been able to receive the education that I received. My professors have been vindicated.

Now it seems that the schools of public health are all getting on the same page. The bottom line is that we are now advised that what matters is the type of fat consumed, less about the amount; and that dietary cholesterol usually has little impact on cardiovascular health.

Therefore, if you’ve been reading these blogs, you know that choosing poly and mono unsaturated fats (commonly available in most vegetable oils, olive oil, peanut oil, avocado oil) and striving to include the omega-3s found in fish oil; nuts, and seeds are vindicated by a preponderance of good research as very beneficial to cardiovascular health.

Tufts University says it very well; “There’s strong and consistent evidence that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats – especially polyunsaturated fats (such as in salmon, soybean oil and walnuts) – is associated with reduced blood levels of total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, as well as a reduced risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular related deaths.” Don’t let anyone convince you to use coconut or palm oil to replace the saturated fat. See our past blogs.

If you’re striving to reduce your saturated fat consumption, a good place to start is with the amount of animal fat you’re consuming. Red meat and especially processed red meat (bacon, sausage, lunchmeat) usually contributes an excess of saturated fat. Consider replacing some of your red meat meals with fish, chicken or plant protein.

The especially good news is that we do not need to be on an extremely low fat diet. One of the reasons that is such good news is that fat does facilitate carrying flavor; and another reason is that fat helps us the feel satisfied. You no longer need to have a fear of fat; just choose the good kinds.